perambulation in pairs

by bam

it is not long after dawn when the pairs of our feet, one headed north, one south, finally come to rest on the same square of cement sidewalk and pivot, turned at last in the same direction.
we are walking somewhere. we know not where. it doesn’t matter. what matters is that in the whirl and tug and pull of our too-many-things-in-too-few-hours lives, we have carved, and i mean taken power tools and jackhammered, one single uninterrupted hour.
children have been left sleeping in their beds at one house. sadly, at the other, children are already deep into the day. they are left with bleary-eyed father, who is left to fend for cheerios and missing puzzle pieces and answers to complicated questions at this hour shortly after dawn.
not every sunday does it happen. sometimes the too-many-things spills even into the sacred firstlight of early sunday. how dare it. but it does.
the curious thing i notice while out at this most early hour is that by no means are we out alone.
there were pairs of feet paired all over town. pairs on sidewalks, pairs on sandy beach. often, all four shoes were what the shoe folk still refer to quaintly as ladies’ sizes.
sunday morning sole pounding must be the latterday variation on once-upon-a-time’s pillow-propped breakfast in bed. mama’s morning off, complete with perspiration, at least here in the leafy town where i now lace my deeply-cushioned nikes.
another thing i couldn’t help but note: all the ladies towering from those quaintly-sized shoes were so deeply engaged in conversation there was little notice paid to cracks and bumps in sidewalks. i seemed to see quite a bit of stumbling as they talked, the ladies. but no one ever fell. there was always, in the walking heart-to-heart, an elbow or a hand to catch the almost-falling.
it is, in many pairs, as if the pounding of the pavement draws them deep into their own cocoon. i know we were.
we start off, from the minute our toes turn and point the same direction, in the middle of a story that must be told. we diverge and fork so many times someone listening might need a chart. to trace the tributaries of conversation from the mother flow that courses, winds and bends, carries us down muddy waters for the one blessed hour we have claimed as ours and ours alone.
my walking friend, like nearly all my friends, is brilliant. she happens to be particularly good at listening, and listening with intent. she is a master of bringing all meandering streams back to the one from which they trickled, or deluged over the banks. depending on the topic.
in that short sweet hour of our whole-body pounding–soles pound, bones pound, heart pounds–we engage, against the drumbeat of our feet, in ancient and exquisite art of taking turns with words. we listen and we tell our stories. up curbs, across alleys, looking both ways for cars.
it is so much more than walking. the walking merely punctuates the stories. the walking is the sound of hearts in sync.
i have walked with friends for years and years, though now this is my only regularly-scheduled walk. maybe it’s just me, and the friends with whom i walk, but i don’t think so. there is something about stepping forward as you talk that propels the conversation deep and deeper.
over the years my walking talks have covered many, many things: marriages that have caved in on themselves, surgeries probing for ills we prayed weren’t there, the injustices of too much housework ill-distributed among the labor force of a single dwelling, struggles with children who cannot find their way.
not always it is to the bone. sometimes it is the everyday gristle that ties us into too-tight knots. sometimes, just for an hour, we need to spit it out, to have the feet beside us, pick up the pace, slow as needed. we need to know that someone outside the pounding we hear inside our heads is catching the same rhythm.
it is a sorry thing that in the monday-through-saturday treadmill of our lives there is no room on the ever-rolling, going-nowhere, rubber beltway to sidle up to another pair of harried soles. we are, too often, mostly left alone to muddle through, to clock our miles, hold our breath, to wait to tell our stories.
and so, midway through a mighty long week, we pick up the phone. we dial. we ask, without introduction: we walkin’ sunday?
we pray to God the answer is affirmative.
perambulation, no doubt, works best in pairs.

blessed friends, do you have someone who walks in step with you? if not, how in this harried world, do you carve time for telling stories back and forth?

p.s. and yes it’s monday. the lazy susan, restocked over the weekend, is spinning new….